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he traveled northward through the United States, or rather the Western territories, and had many adventures among the Indians. In going through Canada he stopped at Niagara Falls, where he performed some foolhardy exploits that resulted in his breaking two of his ribs. He was shipwrecked in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and on his voyage home to England on a merchant ship the crew mutinied and fired the ship in midocean. He finally reached London, and in 1833, when he was in his thirtieth year, commenced his literary career. He became the friend and companion of literary men—Leigh Hunt, Carlyle, Tennyson, the Brownings, Dickens, Walter Savage Landor, Bulwer, G. P. R. James, George Henry Lewis and all the writers of his time best worth knowing. Carlyle said “the fire of the stars was in him,” and Lewis declared him to be a man of the most unquestioned genius. His first play was entitled “Cosmo de Medici,” a historical tragedy that met with fair success on the stage and very high praise from the critics. It is a better reading play than an acting one. His second venture, a single act play, “The Death of Marlowe,” has been considered almost
Shakespearian in its power and was received with immense praise. “Gregory VII.” was another tragedy that was well liked by the reading public, but Macready declined to produce it on the stage. His most popular work of this period, however, was a series of essays called “A New Spirit of the Age,” after the manner of Hazlitt, in which he discusses the prominent writers of the time. Among the celebrities criticised are Carlyle, Macaulay, Tennyson, Elizabeth B. Barrett, Robert Browning, Leigh Hunt, Charles Dickens, Macready, Thomas Hood, Theodore Hook, Sydney Smith, Mrs. Shelley, G. P. R. James, and quite a number of others still more or less remembered. These essays are for the most part appreciations, though the criticism is discriminating. They are written in a vivacious and easy style and are still very interesting to the general reader. In 1843 he published “Orion, an Epic Poem in Three Books.” It was in pamphlet form and was sold for a farthing, “a price placed upon it.” said the author, “as a sarcasm upon the low estimation into which epic poetry has fallen.” It is related that one day when the author was sitting in the publisher's shop a boy came in and throwing down a penny, called for “a penny's
worth of epics.” The poem proved to be immensely popular. Three editions were sold at a farthing, the fourth at a shilling and the fifth at half a crown. Readers of Poe's criticisms, will remember the high eulogy he passed upon this poem. He called it “one of the noblest, if not the very noblest, poetical work of the age. Its defects are trivial and conventional ; its beauties intrinsic and supreme.” Nor were the English critics less appreciative, and Horne was rated in 1843 as the greatest poet of the age. It is a noble poem full of gorgeous images and passages of sustained beauty and power. The music of the language has hardly been surpassed in modern poetry, even by Keats and Tennyson. The poem is founded on the classical story, Orion, the giant son of Poseidon, stands before the Gods and destiny, resolved to be a free agent, to use his powers for the good of mankind. He is a dreamer of noble dreams. He seeks his reward in the consciousness of a life devoted to good. He is a mighty hunter, and in the mountains of Chios encounters Artemis and her attendant nymphs. The goddess would fain teach Orion the purity of love, but his nature rebels and the episodes of his passion for Artemis, Merope and Eos follow. Destiny works out his
fate, and when he is most triumphant in the cause of man the deadly arrow of Artemis makes him the victim of jealousy. Then Eos and Artemis unite in a prayer to Zeus to restore Orion to life. The prayer is granted. Orion is made immortal and placed among the constellations.
Eos hides her face,
If Horne had been content to rest here and write no more, his name would not be so unknown as it now is, but as the Saturday Review once said, the beautiful things he wrote in his prime were obscured by the mass of poor things written almost until the day of his death. He smothered and outlived his fame. Late in life he chose to write his name Richard Hengist Horne, and by this he is now known.
It is often a curious inquiry whether books, especially novels, that once filled the world with their fame, and were in almost every hand, are still read, or whether they have passed away with the generation for which they were written. Of course, we know that the very greatest novels survive, and that somebody is always reading Scott, and Thackeray, and Dickens, and Jane Austen, and even Fielding and Richardson; but when it comes to writers well up in the second rank, are their works still read 2 To come directly to the subject of this article, do general readers nowadays read the novels of BulwerLytton that, two generations ago, held their ground in popularity with Dickens and Thackeray ? Nobody can be said to have a literary education if he is unacquainted with “Vanity Fair;” “The Newcomes,” and “Henry Es